AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Colten Campbell lives just north of East Loop 335, north of Smith & Son Armory, a private gun range on Echo Street.
“So we had a gun range open up down from my house,” Campbell said. “We think that there’s bullets getting away from it and a few have hit my shop.”
While Campbell offered no hard evidence those bullets came from the range, he said he is concerned about his family’s safety.
“It’s when we have bullets coming out of that range and you can hear them now. That’s my concern. I have children that run around here and play out here. We don’t need anybody getting hurt,” Campbell added.
However, in our recent interview with Smith & Son Armory Co-Owner, Jay Smith, he denied bullets could hit nearby houses, even if someone shot over their berm, which he said is 32 feet high.
“You know, it’s to the point where folks are crying wolf. Every gunshot that’s fired within probably two or three miles of the range. We’re getting credit for whether it’s coming from here or not,” Smith said. “So I know that there’s a lot of shooting going on. I’ve witnessed it right across the street. asked these folks to come shoot at the range where it’s much safer. I don’t know what else I can do.”
Smith said he has gone above and beyond, even following NRA standards to make his range safe.
“The 25 and 50-yard lanes, we constructed railroad tie boxes and filled them with sand retain any bullets, just so that they don’t go on downrange. They’re stopped as soon as possible,” Smith said.
The range opened back in February of 2015. So, you might ask: Why has it taken so long to get to the bottom of this? Jurisdiction problems account for some of that time.
The City of Amarillo eventually referred the case to Potter County, as the address is in Amarillo, but the range is outside of city limits.
Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said many reports have been made about the gun range. and something needs to be done.
“The thing that I do not want to do is have to go out and work a death because a stray bullet got away,” Sheriff Thomas said.
Scott Brumley, the Potter County Attorney, said Texas counties have little legal standing to act. However, as we reported last week, there is one stipulation in the local government code the Potter County Commission can impose in the unincorporated subdivisions in the County.
“We do have some authority to regulate small tracts of land…10 acres or less that may have shooting ranges on them,” said Brumley.
That would apply to Smith & Son Armory and the rest of the county.
“Well, our acreage here is 9.88 and it would absolutely it would bankrupt us,” Smith said. “If they regulate the discharge of firearms, that effectively shuts us down and will cause us to go bankrupt.”
However, safety is not the only issue. Some nearby residents say the noise is making life more difficult. Vivian Long said she lives less than 1000 feet from the gun range.
“My husband is a day sleeper, he works nights and it just goes on all day long,” said Long. “He hears it all day long inside of our house, and so I know that people who live a bit closer than we do have it even more, more so.”
Long went on to say she has dozens of neighbors who are disturbed by the sound of gunfire.
Smith says noise is not a problem.
“ I know folks probably aren’t happy because it’s right outside of the city limits but the fact of the matter is, it’s not as noisy as the cars driving down the street. Bullets are not escaping the range. There’s no evidence of that,” Smith said, “and the people that are using the range are not shooting somewhere else in a more dangerous fashion. I think that we’re doing a service to Pleasant Valley and Amarillo.”
Vivian Long would disagree.
“We live in Pleasant Valley, and it’s not pleasant anymore,” said Long.
The Potter County Commission will continue its discussion at its next public meeting about the possibility of regulating the discharge of firearms at the gun range and other plots of land less than 10 acres.
“I would just tell the commission, that we have gone to great lengths to make sure that we’ve built a safe range, that we monitor the range. We screen the people that come in for membership. We don’t let just anybody join the range,” said Smith.
Smith said he will be there at the commission meeting. We will be there, too. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 9 a.m.
Smith said if the commission votes in favor of the regulation, he believes the problems the community is facing will not stop. He said if anything, the lack of a shooting range will cause more problems.
Brumley said there is a chance the Commission could see a lawsuit by gun groups like the NRA if they order regulation.
Sheriff Brian Thomas said he thinks Potter County could be liable if they do not act and someone gets hurt.
DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Kaley Green’s full interview with Jay Smith.